NAIROBI, June 12 – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) on Thursday appealed to naval powers to help protect its ships carrying life-saving assistance from pirate attacks, saying that as many as 2 million Somalis could go hungry without this essential help.
A Dutch frigate is scheduled to finish escort services for WFP on June 25. Since the escort system started last November, no WFP ships have been targeted by pirates, despite an upsurge of piracy in Somali waters — 31 attacks so far this year according to the International Maritime Bureau.
“Without escorts, our whole maritime supply route will be threatened,” said WFP Country, Director Peter Goossens.
“Shipping companies are reluctant to sail unescorted to Somalia, and we have no offers to take over from the Royal Netherlands Navy.”
“Millions of Somalis are suffering from a combination of insecurity, drought and high food and fuel prices. If relief shipments slow down, we could face a major catastrophe,” said Goossens, adding that WFP is trying to scale up relief food distributions to avoid a disaster.
Malnutrition is on the rise in Somalia. An unusually harsh dry season and poor April-June rains, which followed a succession of droughts and poor harvests, have led to increasing hunger in central Somalia.
The situation is compounded by conflict, hyperinflation, the weakness of the Somali shilling, high unemployment and high food and fuel prices.
Some 80 percent of WFP food for Somalia arrives by sea. From mid-November to 25 June, a succession of French, Danish and Dutch frigates will have escorted 27 ships loaded with 112,500 metric tons of WFP food – enough to feed nearly 1 million people for six months.
Relief food deliveries by sea are essential. High commodity prices in East Africa have prompted WFP to purchase food in South Africa.
WFP plans to ship 220,000 tons of food by sea to Somalia between June and December, to reach a total of 2.4 million people per month by December.
Experts fear that the number of people requiring food assistance later this year could reach 3.5 million people – nearly half the total population. Without urgent new contributions, WFP warned it will run out of food for Somalia in September.